Bucket List Tincup

Admittedly, Tincupย  is a fairly minor tick on my bucket list, along with a number of other Colorado ghost towns that I would like to visit ๐Ÿ™‚ It wasn’t even the main reason for visiting that part of the state this week… but what the heck, we were there and why not?

Ghost town of Tin Cup Colorado

The main reason for the journey to the other side of the big mountains was the quest for a picture of moose in the wild. Kevin and I were told that moose hang out at Taylor Reservoir all the time. All we had to do was show up and moose would be flocking to us for the sheer joy of having their picture taken ๐Ÿ™‚

So I awoke at 3:30 a.m. so as to be able to reach the other side of Cottonwood Pass by sunrise, when we knew we would have the best lighting conditions with which to photograph the numerous herds of moose that we would surely encounter. Alas, it was not to be so.ย  Just as with our previous fervent attempt at a moose picture on a difficult trek to Hartenstein Lake on the other side of the pass when the moose showed up a day late, we saw nothing ๐Ÿ˜ฆ With all the smoke from the fires, the rugged Collegiate Peaks mountains weren’t even an image worthy target.

Ghost town of Tin Cup Colorado

With nothing better to do we proceeded down the eight mile dirt road to the ghost town of Tincup. According to undercovercolorado.com, the town got it’s start as a mining town in 1880 as the mining town of Virginia City, however confusion over three towns in three different states with the same name resulted in reincorporating the town as Tincup in the year 1882. Eventually the mines were exhausted and the town had pretty much died by 1918, when the final official election was conducted.

The rough dirt road led to the tiny picturesque town of few inhabitants where we found the best location to grab a few frames with the magnificent San Juan mountains to the west. That took all of about five minutes and then we were off to the Taylor Park Trading Post for a look around followed by one last effort to spot a moose in the marshy area adjacent to the water.

Fog and Frost at Cottonwood Lake Colorado

Seeing none, we headed back over Cottonwood Pass in hopes of spotting a mountain goat or a bighorn sheep in the thin air of the 12,600 foot byway over the Continental Divide. Again no luck on the pass, leaving Cottonwood Lake as our last chance to acquire the coveted large mammal images. As we descended down to lower elevations fog began to thicken and even though there were no critters in sight, fog on Cottonwood Lake looked incredible was pretty cool ๐Ÿ™‚ Finally, a few images for the blog post!

Here we decided to call it a day and head for home. Little did we know that our luck was about to change on a detour to Eleven Mile Reservoir. But that is a subject for another blog post ๐Ÿ™‚

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Hiking the Pony Gulch Trail

I’ve lived here three years, always looking for new trails to hike and I just recently found out about the Pony Gulch Homestead Trail only a couple miles from my house! It’s not well known and if a few people hadn’t commented on it in the Alltrails app I would have never found it.

Pony Gulch Trail

Turns out it’s a fairly difficult four mile trek in the remote mountains southwest of Cripple Creek. I was a bit doubtful of the description at first, calling for almost 1000 feet of elevation gain in such a short hike, especially since I know the area and could not imagine a 1000 foot mountain higher than what I can already see. Well, maybe there is a hidden peak back behind that I can’t see I wondered!

Well it didn’t take long to find out the how the elevation gain was going to be accomplished… the very first thing you do once clearing the first ridge is to descend about 750 feet to the bottom of the gulch! Once there you do a bit more climbing to reach the end of trail at the Pony Gulch Homestead in another mile or so.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

A dirt road leads to the trailhead, I recommend using the Alltrails GPS directions to find it, where you can see a jeep road heading up a hill leading to the southwest. At the top of the hill you will be able to see a couple of cairns, which is all you are going to see… There is no trail through the first part of the rugged BLM land.ย  Once again, turning on the GPS in your phone to lead you through the first half mile is a good idea. Once into the BLM area about a couple of hundred yards there is a noticeable four wheel drive road which goes the wrong way… don’t take it, veer to the right and look for the gulch. Once you find the gulch there are more cairns and a discernible trail to follow.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

The first three quarters of a mile or so is a steep decline down slippery scree in places, my trekking pole got a workout here! There is some nice scenery along this part of the trail, especially in the fall with beautiful golden aspen backed by rugged pine covered cliffs.

Pony Gulch Trail in Autumn

Finally at the bottom of the incline the forest opens up to a nice view of the bottom where I imagine a creek flows in the spring. The trail winds down to the dry creek and crosses and earthen dam where the descent ends and a climb begins which takes you another mile to the summit and the Pony Gulch Homestead. The end of the trail is marked by an iron gate marking the entrance to a ranch on private property I presume.

Pony Gulch Trail in AutumnFrom there I climbed another hill of mostly big chunks of quartz nearby to get a view of the valley below and also the Sangre de Cristo Range in the background. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see with all the smoke these days. I Found a nice place to sit and have some food and water and to rest up for the return trip. I put on my 24-105 with a polarizer and took a few pictures to mark the far end of the journey :) I also went down to the homestead to investigate and snap a few more pictures.

Pony Gulch Homestead Trail in Autumn

Finally the time came to begin the return trip… I checked my GPS to make sure I was headed the right way and it was a good thing I did since there was a forest service road that was more prominent than the actual trail back! A short adjustment in direction and I was on my way. After about a quarter of a mile I came to the southernmost cairn and strode on by… The GPS map showed me straying from the route again on a dotted line that looked like it should be the trail but more careful observation revealed that the cairn marked a left turn down a more faint forest road. So another slight adjustment in direction and I was making the short climb past the high point on the section south of the dam.

Soon I was back to the dam and the mile long climb back up to Lookout Point loomed before me. I have to admit, I took quite a few rest stops to catch my breath on the nearly 1000 foot climb in one mile! Eventually I made my way to the end of theย  gulch and found myself in search of the cairns that lead the way through the bushwhacking section of the route. Once again, the Alltrails GPS directions come in handy ๐Ÿ™‚

I highly recommend this trail to more experienced hikers in a little better physical condition than some. This is not an easy trail and should not be underestimated. I also recommend on this one to let someone know where you are going, it is a very lightly trafficked route and phone signal is iffy at best in the gulch. You might have a long wait for help if you were to twist an ankle or something.

These were myย  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I shot along the trail. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of myย  hike plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channelย  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

HDR Photography

What is HDR photography you ask? HDR stands for high dynamic range, which according to Wikipedia is “a technique used in photographic imaging and films, and in ray-traced computer-generated imaging, to reproduce a greater range of luminosity than what is possible with standard digital imaging or photographic techniques.”, and is also a feature in my camera that I have mostly ignored up until recently.

Rocky Mountain National Park in HDR

So, if you find yourself in a situation with bright highlights and deep shadows you might want to try HDR mode if your camera supports it. On the Canon 90D and many other higher end models you can select HDR mode in the menu. Once selected, another screen comes up which allows you to select standard, natural or art saturation or something like that. Then you can select how many stops you feel you need to cover, I have been using +3, which means that the camera is going to shoot three images in rapid succession with three different stops of exposure, before stitching them together in camera to produce one jpg image with the three stops of exposure.

_MG_5206So far I have tried the art mode setting on some autumn colors and now natural which I tried in Rocky Mountain National Park. Art mode proved to be too much for my tastes and resulted in some odd colors introduced into the shadows.ย  Natural looks a little better but I can’t say I’d trust a whole shoot to this technique. My attempts have been handheld which I don’t recommend due to the fact that I’m not sure they are matching the three images up perfectly. I would definitely use a tripod for a serious attempt at an image.

As for me, I will continue to do my serious photography in Raw mode as I don’t feel the benefits of the HDR feature outweigh the benefits of being able to adjust your images with Light Room, Capture One, or Adobe ACR prior to rendering your final image.

_MG_5188These were myย  favorite pictures of the dozen or so that I shot in HDR mode. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of my RMNP trip plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channelย  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

This post was not sponsored by any equipment manufacturer. All equipment used was my own, purchased by me on my own volition.

Smokey Autumn

A quick check of the weather forecast this morning dictated what I might be able to accomplish. Smoke from all the fires is everywhere but today the report particularly called out the valleys for air quality concerns. I was

Fall Colors in the Rockies

thinking of making my first outing since my return from Rocky a trip to Eleven Mile but with all the smoke I decided I’d be better off visiting a peak rather than a valley.

So I decided upon my usual trailhead in hopes of spotting a few deer and maybe even some elk. In the absence of those I figured I’d see some nice aspen trees changing color and maybe even the hawk or some other birds. Unfortunately a guy with a Vesper Sparrow in the Morningdog beat me to the trailhead so there were no big animals to be found and the hawks were in hiding as well.

But the trees were pretty and I was visited by a couple of cute little vesper sparrows at trail’s end. I took a drive up to Victor Pass to see if the colors have changed on Pikes Peak, but there was too much smoke in the sky to see the state of colors on the peak.

These were myย  favorite pictures of the half dozen or so that I’m going to publish later this morning. Please feel free to visit and follow my Instagram page for the rest of this morning’s plus hundreds more!

For your enjoyment I have also created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channelย  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Fall Colors in the Rockies

Fiery Sunset

Of course I awoke hours ago to the news that the president has tested positive for the covid virus and it is my sincerest hope that he and the first lady as well as senior aide Hope Hicks make a rapid and complete recovery. I know during times like these it is difficult to tear away from the news and continue on with your work, but then again… how do you not? It also occurs to me that this kind of thing gives a lot of people an opportunity to show how big or how small a person they are. So far I have seen a number of examples, particularly from the so called Hollywood Elite just how petty and small someone can be, which is why I avoid those people and their rapidly degenerating craft as often as possible. As for me I will say my prayers and continue on in faith as best as I can.

Sunset on Longs Peak ColoradoToday I am continuing the process of sorting through hundreds of images from my recent photo trip to Rocky Mountain National Park and today I am working on some sunset pictures captured on our second day in the park. We had just completed a long day in Moraine Park trying to capture the elk in action during rut season. The sun was beginning to set and smoke from the Cameron Peak wildfire was beginning to fill the valley with thick smoke. The elk were settling down for the night and the light was becoming far too dim for effective wildlife action photography so we decided to call it a day and head for the campground.

Sunset on Longs Peak Colorado

On our way out of the park I looked back and noticed the spectacular sunset enhanced by the thickening smoke taking place over the high peaks of the park and of course we had to stop and capture the scene! I still had my long lens attached for wildlife photography but I leapt out of the SUV and snapped a couple anyway, just to make sure I had something from the magnificent scene! Then I grabbed my 25-105 wide angle and crossed the highway to try to do the moment justice. I decided upon an aperture of around 4.5 to gather as much light as possible without sacrificing too much depth of field and a shutter speed of around 160th of a second. As I moved around capturing the scene I adjusted my exposure compensation to lighten and darken the captures with the hope that I would get that one coveted hero shot to take home ๐Ÿ™‚

Sunset on Longs Peak ColoradoAnd I have to say I am pleased with the result, considering the difficulty resulting from darkness and the choking smoke! What a fabulous finish to an already amazing day in the park :)

For your enjoyment I have created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channelย  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Emerald Lake Bucket List

First day back from my three day photography trip to Rocky Mountain National Park… I scarcely know where to begin, three days, two parks on the journey up to Rocky plus two mornings and two evenings with the elk, a long beautiful hike, a drive over Trail Ridge Road and another evening with some elk on the west side of the park and over 1,600 pictures. There is just no way to cover it all in one blog post!

Portrrait at Emerald Lake

So I guess I’ll just start with my favorite part… the hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes. Many times I have visited Bear Lake through the years, and each time I have stared longingly at the rugged peaks to the south of the lake. I always try to get a decent picture of them from Bear Lake, but when you use a wide angle to get the beautiful lake in, the peaks in the background are unacceptably diminished.

But on this trip we decided to take the hike to Dream and Emerald Lakes, about a four mile round trip trek. The 1.1 mile hike to Dream Lake was pretty easy, except for the relentless incline. My hopes were high as we approached the lake that I would finally have an unimpeded view of the rugged peaks that I could see

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

from the parking lot. But it was not to be… however this lake with it’s placid water and lily pads was a dream just as the name indicates! We took a break there to shoot some pictures and rest up for the even steeper and rockier eight tenths of a mile remaining to Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

As we neared our next destination the magnificent peaks came into view and my hopes were rising that we were going to see something special! Finally we drew near to the beautiful alpine lake and it was then that I realized that my long time dream was about to be realized ๐Ÿ™‚ From the lake there is an incredible view of the rugged terrain above the lake. We of course had to stop there and make sure the amazing scene was adequately captured and we also decided to shoot a couple portraits of each other to mark the occasion ๐Ÿ™‚

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

I highly recommend this hike which begins at the Bear Lake trailhead… I may decide to return at a different time of day other than high noon to see if I can get a more dramatic image of this amazing alpine lake in better light, but for now, this is truly a bucket list item checked!

In the coming days I will be publishing more blog posts, pictures and at least one video for my YouTube Channel! Be sure to follow my blog and subscribe to my channel so you don’t miss anything!

For your enjoyment I have created a library of multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channelย  if you would like to see more of my adventures! Also feel free to follow my Instagram page where tons more of my images are displayed!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Snow on the Sangre

It has been a long time since I have seen the Sangre de Cristo, the fires of summer have left them totally obscured for months. Finally cooler weather, some snow and rain and calmer winds have helped with progress on

Mountain Blue Bird

putting out the fires. The air isn’t completely clear yet but I was able to see the majestic mountain range well enough to see the new mantle of white snow ๐Ÿ™‚

Apparently it isn’t cool enough yet to attract the elk or deer herds, but there are plenty of birds! The high meadow on top of the mountain was filled with mountain blue birds and vesper sparrows this morning ๐Ÿ™‚ It remains a mystery to me however, how do these birds know to get between me and the sun so that I can’t get a picture in this beautiful early morning light??? Looks like the fall colors are coming early this year! Not sure what the reason is for that, probably just because it is 2020…

Red-tailed Hawk

Both of my favorite red-tail hawks were waiting for me at the bottom of the mountain. Unfortunately they flew away from me in the wrong direction so I couldn’t get a nice picture of them in flight. This one on the light post will have to do for today. I’ll be back tomorrow though, hoping for a better angle!

Snow on the SangreFor your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channelย  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Snow on the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado by #swkrullimaging

First Snow 2020

Summer didn’t give up without a fight… some of the hottest weather I’ve seen in the mountains persisted right through the entire labor day weekend.ย  Almost 80 doesn’t sound very hot to ya’ll flat landers but we aren’t used to that up here! it was much worse in Denver, Sunday I believe hitting 101 degrees. It was so hot and bright just after sunrise that I didn’t even bother leaving the house.

First Colorado Snow

But that all ended on Monday night as a cold front went through and dropped the temperature to 20f and the skies broke with eight inches of snow, wind and fog. The fog and low visibility lasted all day yesterday so I dejectedly continued my four day losing streak by not going out of the house at all, not even to exercise ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Today however was better, the sun was kind of out and I could see the fog was breaking up, ideal conditions for pictures! As I looked out the window my spirits were lifted by the spectacular conditions and my mind once again turned to the mountains and photography.

Mines on a Winter Day

So I laced up my winter hiking boots and hit the trail. I was hoping for that magnificent view from the top of the ridge with fog at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Range but unfortunately all I could see was fog flowing into the valley from the southwest.ย  As I strode through the snow and fog on the summit the historic gold mine came into faint view through the fog, so I stopped for a bit to take in the view and capture the scene. The view of the valley below on the northeast side of the mountain was also well worth a couple black and white captures on the return trail.

Red-tailed Hawk

A pair of red-tailed hawks greeted me at the trailhead, each calling to the other through the mist from their own power pole. I was fortunate after a while that one of the great raptors left his pole and flew right at me ๐Ÿ™‚ Nothing better than a good hawk in flight picture!

Mines on a Winter Day

After my hike I decided to drive through Victor and check on mine country in Goldfield, hoping for some photogenic fog and a view of the Sangres. Part of my wish came true, there was a nice foggy backdrop behind the mines which made for a nice landscape image despite the Sangre de Cristo being completely fogged over ๐Ÿ™‚

I knew I had to make one more stop… Pikes Peak was bound to be amazing with new snow and fog so I drove to the top of Victor Pass for a look. And the great mountain did not disappoint ๐Ÿ™‚ The cantankerous old lady always looks better in snow ๐Ÿ™‚

Fresh Snow on Pikes Peak

By this time it was becoming obvious that our short bout with winter was about over. Heat rising from my sweatshirt was fogging over my sunglasses and I was getting really thirsty so I decided to call it a day. The fog never really did subside… I thought I was going to get a break on the way home but as I prepared for picturesย  a new layer of fog streamed in from the valley below, totally obscuring my view of the distant mountain range.

For your enjoyment I have created many short multimedia videos for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channelย  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Hiking to Hartenstein Lake

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As summer marches along and the much anticipated autumn season in the high country of Colorado draws near, I decided to take my 14er preparation to the next step. I’ve been hiking to the summit of Grouse Mountain this summer in my effort to achieve the physical conditioning required to climb a 14,000 plus foot mountain to add to my 14ers.com profile, but unfortunately this little mountain doesn’t come close to the rigors of climbing a 14er!

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

A few years ago I took the Mount Yale fork from the Denny Creek Trail and checked off another 14er on my quest to complete as many of Colorado’s giant mountains as possible. On that climb I noticed another trail, labeled Brown’s Pass and Hartenstein Lake on the signage. In subsequent research I found a lot of people really enjoyed that hike and raved about the scenery and wildlife that they saw along the trail.ย  Since then I have wanted to return and hike that trail but one thing or another was always in the way and I have never been able to make it back.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Finally yesterday was the day, all the stars aligned and I returned to the trail head with fellow photographer and hiker Kevin. We arrived at the trailhead at sunrise and began the long steep ascent to the first stream crossing. Along the way we took the opportunity to take a couple of breaks to photograph the little waterfalls on Denny Creek along the way.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

A couple of miles of rough rocky trail and several stream crossings later we arrived at the fork in the trail where the sign shows the lake and Brown’s Pass to the left. From there the trail steepened and we persevered westward towards the lake. The trail climbed higher and higher as Turner Peak to the right became smaller and smaller. Just when it looked like we were going to be required to climb Turnerย  the trail descended into a much more heavily wooded section and after about a half mile a bit of water came into view. Kevin remarked, “Is that the lake?”.ย  “I hope not!” I replied… We kept going and eventually a more significant body of water came into view.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Indeed we had found the lake, but by this time of year the water was quite low and surrounded by a marshy muddy shoreline. We made a couple of attempts to access water’s edge but it was just too soggy. Finally we decided to stay on the main trail which wound around to the west side of the lake where we were able to get down to the water with mighty Mount Yale in the background.

Browns Pass Hartenstein Trail

Although disappointed that there was no wildlife at the lake at this time, we stuck around to take a few pictures, Kevin shot some video footage of me coming up from the lake and we took a break to eat a granola bar and recover from the 1600 foot climb.

I highly recommend the trail for hikers in fairly good physical condition. Plan on three to five hours to complete the trail and bring plenty of liquids and nourishment for that length of time. There is a fairly big parking lot at the trailhead on the north side of the Cottonwood Pass road, you can’t miss it. However on a weekend you might want to arrive plenty early to assure a parking place. Bring rain gear as rainstorms occur on most afternoons in the mountains.

For your enjoyment I have created a short multimedia video for my YouTube channel! Feel free to watch and be sure to subscribe to my channelย  if you would like to see more of our adventures!

As always, the best of these images and hundreds more are available for purchase on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas and traditional matting and framing. Tons of cool household and gift items are also available with any image you like including coffee mugs, t-shirts, blankets and pillows, battery chargers, phone cases, stationary and much much more! Just click on any image you like and all the choices, sizes and prices will appear! For my viewers interested in images for commercial use, please visit my image licensing portal!

Band of Brothers

Full Grouse Mountain MapBand of Brothers,ย  that’s the new name I’ve given the growing herd of buck mule deer on my mountain ๐Ÿ™‚ I decided to go further than ever before in the park today, thinking it would be a good stepping stone for my “hoped for” ascent of Mount Quandary this fall. I know,

Band of Brothers Mule Deer Bucks

it’s an easy one… but I’ve never climbed it before and it would be my first 14er in my sixth decade of life on this planet ๐Ÿ™‚ Plus it was only a few months ago after surgery it was all I could do to walk a half a block down to the store! So anyway, I was pleased with my progress on this hike and am feeling more confident about a 14er summit this autumn!

As I cleared the top of the ridge I saw a buck mule deer peering through the trees at me so I avoided the trees and took the long way around the dense pines to the other side where I hoped to approach them without scaring them away. This resulted in a tough rocky climb that I had hitherto deemed impossible. I guess it’s true “Where there’s a will there’s a way!”. Had I gone through he woods they would have instantly bolted at the sound of my clodhoppers crashing through the branches. Fortunately they couldn’t see me until I cleared the summit and at the distance I was from them they just looked at me Summit Grouse Mountainwith curiosity. In fact one of the brothers took a few steps toward me to get a better look!

Then I set my sights on the distant peak, the summit of Grouse Mountain. It was actually difficult to tell if that peak was any higher than the one I was on, but I wanted to check out the unobscured view of the Sangre de Cristo. This may be the only place where you can see the entire eastern range without some kind of mountain or trees in the way! When I arrived at the top I took a look back and it was indeed quite a bit higher.

Female Dusky Grouse

Along the traverse I spotted a pretty good sized bird waddling past one of the old mines so I decided to take a break from the climb to see if I could get a picture of this peculiar bird I’d never seen before!ย  Well this one was quite a character, when she noticed me she quickly scampered under the cover of dense trees that had created an oasis of this abandoned mine high on the barren rocky mountain tundra. I quietly approached the mine hoping to get another chance and I saw her trot over to the other side of the mine behind the trees.ย  So I crept around the mine hoping she would go out in the sun where I couldย  get a decent shot, but wherever I went, she went the other way around the mine, never coming out from the shade of the tall trees ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Finally I decided to just shoot through the trees and do the best that I could to get a record of my sighting.ย  I posted the picture but didn’t get an immediate response on the ID of the bird so I downloaded a free app from Cornell Labs called Merlin.ย  I was pleased when it came right back with the name of the bird… female Dusky Grouse ๐Ÿ™‚ it said that she was an uncommon find in these parts!

Lone Doe in the Pike National Forest

From there it wasn’t far to the summit with the fantastic view of the Sangre de Cristo block fault range (above). It was awesome to stand in full view of the mountains from a place I had been eyeing for so many years ๐Ÿ™‚ I stopped and put my pack down to take in the view while recovering from the climb with a nice drink of Gatorade ๐Ÿ™‚ I traded out my long lens for a wide angle with a polarizer to cut through the morning haze, and captured a few views of the distant mountain range.

The trip back down was easy with only a small part of it on unfamiliar terrain. There really isn’t a trail most of the way, only the faint wagon tracks left behind by the miners over 100 years ago, most of which I have already explored. This was such an enjoyable hike that I hope to make it once a week to get in shape for the upcoming 14,000 foot climb to the summit of Mount Quandary! I was hoping to see the resident Rough Legged Hawk on the way down, but no such luck. I was privileged to spot this lone doe foraging on the mountain grass! If you look carefully you can see the massive Collegiate Peaks mountain range appearing faintly in the background!

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